It’s here; there’s absolutely no escaping it and even if you do manage to go the whole season without hearing ‘Last Christmas’ I’m willing to bet that you’re not going to escape without being affected in some way by Christmas. The adverts on the television and the displays in the windows of the department stores paint a very contrived and fabricated version of Christmas. Even if you could afford to buy all the things shown in this year’s M&S Christmas Advert could it ever be that stress free? Many love it and think the energy spent in trying to live up to the mythological perfect Christmas is worth it but for a significant number of others it is a culmination of a difficult year. Those with financial troubles, bereavements, housing troubles or isolation will most likely be struggling more than usual at this time of the year.

The purpose of this blog is not to take a happy period away from those who enjoy it but to reach out to those others with some practical advice. I personally had very happy childhood memories of the festive season with my family but when my mother died a few days before Christmas Day my father and I locked ourselves away, not ready to accept this celebratory time of the year without her. Whichever camp you are in Christmas can be a highly emotive time. Here are 5 of my favourite tips for surviving the period without too much trauma.

  1. Drop Perfection

Whether or not you’ve had a tough year why not eliminate any excess stress on Christmas Day by dropping the need for perfection. This is easily done if you’re on your own but where there are family or friends to please, sometimes we get wrapped up in the ridiculous and self-imposed expectation of everything being perfect. Do you ever remember the Christmas day where the napkins were mismatching or someone forget to get the crackers? No, neither do we. Don’t focus on perfection this Christmas it will be a huge distraction to what is really important and raise your stress levels significantly. Having a silent meltdown in the kitchen will not go unnoticed and add to the stress levels of everybody else too.

  1. Try Something New

Do you need to live up to the expectation of the latest Tesco Christmas Ad? Do you need to recreate last year’s event item by item? Our entire economic system is based on the myth that bigger is better or more is better but it’s simply not true. Try something different this year? Why not go out for lunch or have a Christmas song ban. Include a new game or new food dishes. One of the best things our family ever did was to abandon the traditional Christmas lunch and choose our favourite meal instead. We also had fun decorating a Cactus one year instead of a Christmas Tree. The act of change is exciting enough to distract you from the usual stresses.

  1. Limit your spend

Financial worries are common at Christmas time when the pressure to meet or exceed the already high expectations surround us. There are a number of ways to reduce your expenditure. What about putting a spending limit on presents, or trying out a secondhand gift exchange with preloved items of your own or those purchased from a charity shop? You could make a gift which also gives it a special quality. Or you could ban them all together like the families in the article below. Additionally, you could split the costs of your main meal by everybody chipping in with an item.

Read how some families are going present-free this Christmas here.

  1. Focus on what matters

Focus on what really matters; spending time with those you love and taking a break. When you think about these as your core goals a lot of other things can fall aside. You don’t need to stuff your guests full of food, nor make sure you’ve bought everyone a present from their Amazon Christmas List. Cut down on the stress this Christmas by remembering what really matters.

  1. Share the Load

During the lead up to Christmas why not split the load. If you’re cooking the main course, you could have others bring dessert or any starters. If you’re already doing this why not share the load on the day rather than planting yourself in the kitchen for most of the lead up to the meal and missing out on the best bit. Don’t say no to offers to help with cooking or cleaning and don’t be afraid to ask. People enjoy contributing.

Whatever you decide to do as the festive season arrives, apart from focusing on the meaning of it all, take some time out, however busy you are, to do something that you enjoy, or to have some time just for yourself.